Scooter Libby's conspiracy theory

In a court filing, Libby's lawyers suggest that everyone's out to get him.

Published March 20, 2006 8:05PM (EST)

Is everybody out to get Scooter Libby?

It's hard not to get that impression after reading a motion Libby's lawyers filed Friday in a U.S. District Court. Libby's lawyers say the 12,000 pages they've gotten from the prosecution so far represent "a very small document production" in a case like his, and that the "numbers alone" suggest that Patrick Fitzgerald's team is still hiding things. So they want more -- documents from the CIA, documents from the State Department, documents from just about everywhere -- because, well, because this whole Valerie Plame imbroglio might be some kind of scheme against Scooter Libby.

Libby's lawyers start with the back story: In 2003 -- as the war in Iraq went south and questions arose about the misuse of prewar intelligence -- the Bush administration was at odds with itself. It was a "period of increasing bureaucratic infighting," Libby's lawyers say, with "certain officials" at the CIA, the White House and the State Department trying to "avoid or assign blame for intelligence failures relating to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability." Why does that matter? Because, Libby's lawyers say, the "finger-pointing" that went on then will be a "key issue" in showing the jury that hears Libby's case about the potential bias of the prosecution's witnesses.

And who has a bias against Libby? Just about everyone, apparently:

The CIA: Libby's lawyers say the White House and the CIA "were widely regarded to be at war in 2003 over the inclusion of the sixteen words in the president's State of the Union address." If CIA officials thought they were being "unfairly criticized or scapegoated," Libby's lawyers say, they might have expressed such concerns in e-mail messages or other documents. The lawyers want to see any such documents, as well as any documents relating to the CIA's decision to refer the Plame leak to the Department of Justice for an investigation. "It bears mentioning," Libby's lawyers say, "that the entire criminal referral by the CIA to DOJ may be infected by bias on the part of the CIA."

The State Department: If former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had a role in outing Valerie Plame -- a possibility suggested, though not as strongly as Libby's lawyers suggest, in a new Vanity Fair article -- then perhaps potential witnesses from the State Department are biased against Libby, too. Libby's lawyers explain that if Armitage is guilty of leaking, the testimony of former Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman might be "colored by either his personal relationship with Mr. Armitage or his concern for the institutional interests of the State Department."

Ari Fleischer: While Fleischer may not have leaked Plame's identity himself, he did suggest that reporters poke around to see who sent Joseph Wilson to Niger. How does that make him biased against Libby? If he talked with reporters about Plame, Libby's lawyers say, maybe he feared that he was a target of Fitzgerald's investigation, and maybe that fear would have given him "motive to shade his testimony" to implicate someone else.

Karl Rove: Et tu, Turd Blossom? Libby's lawyers say they need to see any documents Rove may have seen regarding Wilson's trip to Niger. They don't say why, except that such documents are "necessary for the defense to prepare to examine this witness at trial." Maybe Libby's lawyers don't want to get into the reasons -- or maybe they're just self-evident.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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